WFSU News Team
Thu April 5, 2012
Putnam says weapons permits up
Floridians set a record in March when more than 53,000 of them applied for a concealed weapons permit. James Call reports, in fact, February and March set records for the number of citizens applying for a permit to carry a concealed fire arm.
In 1987, Florida passed the nation’s first shall-issue concealed carry weapons law. Nearly one million permits have been issued, nearly double the number in any other state. The Department of Agriculture issues the permits. AG Commissioner Adam Putnam, right now there are more than 700,000 active permits. Putnam says he is not concerned that nearly one in every 20 Floridians has a license to carry a loaded gun in their car, or purse on them as they go about their daily business.
“And the fact is over the life of the program, only 168 permit holders have had their permit revoked for a gun related crime reinforces the fact that the people who go through the trouble of the process for applying for and receiving a CWP are not generally the ones you need to worry about in terms of a criminal element in society.”
No state is second to Florida when it comes to embracing second amendment rights. Lawmakers’ enthusiasm for gun rights is such that the Tampa Bay Times referred to Florida as the Gun-shine state. The legislature has given birth to laws such as stand your ground; which the death of an unarmed teenager highlights, bring your gun to work, which the Disney Corporation opposed, and an all-out ban on local gun restrictions, handcuffing city and county governments to respond to citizens’ complaints. Unlike other states that allow police to deny applications based on personal character and arrest history, Florida is a so-called issue state; almost anyone who hasn’t been convicted of a violent crime can qualify for a weapons license.
“The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services can only suspend someone’s license when they are charged with a crime. And the department can only revoke someone’s license when they are convicted of that crime.”
Two years ago, Putnam says there was a spike in the number of permit applications. Now he says that spike has become a sustained high demand. He responded by hiring 46 full time employees and opening eight regional offices to process applications. Last week he opened an office in Walton County. The first applicant through the door was a military serviceman. Putnam says fear drives some people to seek a concealed weapon permit. But he adds Florida has a high number of military veterans and sportsmen, people who tend to have an affectionate attachment to guns. Putnam says some people pay for a permit in order to be legal.
“They just want to eliminate any ambiguity about carrying one in their vehicle and making sure they don’t have to think through some judicial standard that is pretty unclear the old three step rule, is it okay that it is in my car in the glove compartment but the glove compartment is not locked and if it is in the gun department can it be loaded? The CWP eliminates all of those concerns that historically were there before the CWP law came into existence.”
The Violent Policy Center, a gun control group, found that between 2007 and 2009 concealed carry permit holders killed 117 people in the United States. A Florida State University study found that guns are used defensively to stop a crime, from simple assault to rape, 2. 5 million times a year.
In Florida, the concealed weapon law is so popular that the trust fund the permit fee supports has a surplus and the 2012 legislature cut the fee from $85 to $70.